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Child Law expert. Alan Levy
"The court is saying it does not amount to murder"
 real 56k

David Wilks, Chairman, BMA Ethics Committee
"The court has made a ... pragmatic decision to save the life of one twin"
 real 56k

Bruno Quintavalle, Pro-Life Alliance
"We're very worried about the implications of this case"
 real 56k

Will Degeraty of Conjoined Twins International
"I think it's a good prognosis"
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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Siamese twins: The reaction
Siamese Twins
Opinions are divided on the Court of Appeal decision
Opinion on the Court of Appeal's decision to allow doctors to separate the Siamese twins is divided.

Conjoined Twins International

Will Degaraty from Conjoined Twins International in the US welcomed the decision.

"Conjoined twins are special people but if a life can be saved then it is worth it.

"The court decision to separate them is the right one but our hearts go out to the family."

He added: "I don't think it is legally murdering, I think it's the right medical decision. The purpose of having medicine is to save life."

Pro-life groups

A spokesman for the pro-life charity Life criticised the decision.

"This is sad news. We feel very sorry and what kind of turmoil must the parents be going through."

He said the operation should not be allowed to go ahead and nature should be allowed to take its natural course.

"The only other option and the one the court has taken is to take life.

"Their intent must be, whether explicitly or implicitly, to take life although simultaneously saving a life and that's our objection."

Bruno Quintavalle, a campaigner for the Pro-life Alliance, described the decision as disturbing.

He added: "This case will have implications in other life issues. The judgement did not give full weight to a person's right to live.

"It makes life that much more difficult for the weak in society. We are very concerned about it."

Disabled activist Simone Aspis, of the group People First, said: "The main concern is that the whole case has been centred on Jodie or Mary dying or Jodie living but no-one has really talked about how they are able to live together or what medical treatment could sustain their life.

"Will this judgement allow more doctors to argue that one twin should be saved at the expense of another twin?"

Family law experts

An expert in family law Allan Levy QC, who had predicted that the original High Court decision would be upheld, said the judges had decided in favour of preserving life.

"I think in the main it's a decision for the preservation of life because it means that the twin with a reasonable prospect of life will be saved rather than the alternative outcome which would have meant the inevitable death of both."

He added: "The decision must imply that they've decided there's no breach of criminal law. Their reasoning must add up to the fact that it is not murdering in law."

Medical ethics experts

But Professor Raanon Gillon, editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, said the decision was wrong.

"It's far better to let the parents decide. I have to say that if I were making the decision myself and if I were convinced that one child would be saved then I personally would chose the operation.

"But I don't think my view or anybody else's view should be imposed on parents who conscientiously choose the opposite."

British Medical Association

Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), said the courts were the right place to decide the issue.

"The BMA believes that where parents and the healthcare team have different views that cannot be resolved, the court is the right place to consider the arguments and make a decision that reflects the broader values of society.

"The fundamental instinct of every doctor is to save life where possible and it is understandable therefore that the Manchester team wanted to intervene."

He added: "The decision in this very special and difficult case will not have a direct bearing on the way doctors will deal with the more familiar dilemma that confronts them when treating a single child and trying to balance the needs of the child and the views of the parents when they are in conflict."

Religious leaders

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said: "In expressing a number of anxieties about this case I have been particularly concerned that a precedent might be set in English law that could allow an innocent person to be killed, or lethally assaulted, even to prolong the life of another.

"If such a precedent has indeed been set I would have profound misgivings about the Court's decision."

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols said: "I express dismay at the judgment that has been reached as it amounts to the direct killing of an innocent person, whose basic right to life will be denied."

A spokesman for the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain reluctantly welcomed the judgement.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: "Jewish medical ethics suggest that intervening to separate the twins is both a terrible responsibility and a justified action.

"Ultimately, it is better to preserve one life rather than lose two."

Political view

Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris, who sits on the BMA's ethics committee, said: "Although this is a complex case the ethical position is clear.

"The doctors should be allowed to intervene to save life, even against the wishes of the parents.

"Contrary to what is claimed by critics of this decision, this decision was pro-life and we must be wary of people declaring that they know God's will when it conflicts against the interests of others."

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See also:

22 Sep 00 | Health
Agony of Siamese twins judge
22 Sep 00 | Health
Siamese twins: An expert's view
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